It’s happened to the best of us – even those of us with intelligent, capable, carefully chosen staff.

You finally work up the courage to delegate That Big Task and then, deadline looming, you discover it’s

  1. Completed (but at a disappointing quality)
  2. Completed (but way too short. Or long.)
  3. Not even completed! Heck, it never got started!

Completely infuriating!

And thankfully, almost completely avoidable. 


How did I master the art of delegation?

By screwing it up.  More than once.

In fact, just a few weeks ago, I was running from meeting to meeting, thinking about a presentation I’d be making the next day.  I emailed my assistant some changes I needed to the PowerPoint . . . and didn’t see her response of “Yup! I’ll start on it tomorrow!” until late in the day.  I realized I’d never informed her that it was THIS presentation I was giving TOMORROW. Ooof!

To avoid making the same mistake you need to remember the following acronym: OURS. (As in: this project/assignment is “ours” together. You see what I did there?)



We often focus on the process we want someone to follow instead of creating a clear picture of what we want the outcome to look like.  Your efforts are better spent describing, in vivid detail, what you want the finished product to look like. What would a “homerun” look like to you? Share THAT!



Provide context for how you will use the information or project that you’re delegating.  Why do you need this done? How will you use it?  It seems obvious, but I can’t tell you how many times this step is forgotten.

It makes a huge difference when your staff knows how their work will be used. When they know how it will be used they can shape the outcome and set you up for a much better finished product.



Compare the assignment to previous work.  Our best teacher is history.  How is what you are asking like or not like another project in the past? What is different here?  What is the same?  How might the person borrow from prior projects they’ve done for you?



Share important facts regarding prioritization and timing.  When do you need this by? Why?Here’s the catch:  don’t just give a deadline.  Ask: Is this doable in that time frame?  If not, can I help you prioritize?

Help them figure out how to order work assignments.  Don’t stop there; ask them to summarize what they understand the assignment to be.  You may find gaps in your communication or gaps in their understanding.

Whatever happens, DO NOT leave the conversation without an agreement (a verbal “yes”) on a due date.  This is critical if you need to go to the “Accountability Conversation.”

See? Delegation is so easy, a dummy could do it 🙂

Try these four steps when delegating your next assignment. Ask your delegate “How could I have delegated this more effectively for you to set us both up for success?”  It’s a great question we don’t ask enough!

Tell me: have you struggled with delegation – from either end? Share your best delegation tips in the comments below! P.S. If you know someone who’s struggling to get the results they want when they delegate, send them a link to this post!